Admired for their "superlative artistry" (CVNC Arts Journal), the Kontras Quartet has established an international following for their vibrant and nuanced performances. The "superb Chicago-based ensemble" (Gramophone Magazine) has been lauded for their "crisp precision" (Palm Beach Daily News) and "enjoyable musical personality" (Fanfare Magazine). Kontras means contrasts in the Afrikaans language - fitting for a string ensemble whose colorful repertoire spans centuries, genres, and continents.
String Quartet in D Major, Op 20, No 4
IV. Presto Scherzando
Run time: 3:45
Recorded in early 2020, produced by Dan Nichols.
This is part of a larger work that we have presented in concert by Franz Josef Haydn- the "father" of the string quartet. Haydn is a foundational figure in classical music, and especially for the string quartet. He infuses his work with humor and emotion. Haydn is known as a classical composer, but folk influences can be found in various guises throughout his work.
G. L. Frank
Run Time: 3:30
Recorded in early 2020, produced by Dan Nichols
This movement is part of a larger work that we have presented in concert. Please see the description below from the composer herself:
Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout draws inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, where cultures can coexist without the subjugation of one by the other. As such, this piece mixes elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions.
VI. "Coqueteos" is a flirtatious love song sung by gallant men known as romanceros. As such, it is direct in its harmonic expression, bold, and festive. The romanceros sing in harmony with one another against a backdrop of guitars which I think of as a vendaval de guitarras ("storm of guitars").
©Gabriela Lena Frank
Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale "St. Wenceslas", Op. 35
Run Time: 6:28
Recorded in early 2020, produced by Dan Nichols
This is a stand alone work, that we have presented in concert.
Josef Suk played second violin in the Bohemian String Quartet.
Since 1914 the ensemble was obliged to perform the Austrian national anthem at the opening of every concert. Suk decided to supplement this obligatory piece with a work inspired by the ancient sacred Bohemian "St. Wenceslas" hymn. The hymn's message 'a plea for the well-being of the Czech people ("do not let us and future generations perish"), directed at their patron saint' was immediately understood by the audience.
The three samples that we provided are representative of the way that we construct programs. We present concerts that encompass multiple time periods. We present masterworks by great composers from the past and present. We present music by living composers of many different backgrounds. Franz Josef Haydn, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Josef Suk exemplify all of these goals, and combine to make an engaging experience that allows our audience to make unexpected connections. We've recently programmed works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Javier Alvarez, Jessie Montgomery, Caroline Shaw, John Elmquist, and others. We love our programs, and our audiences agree.
Formed in 2009 while the group's members were string principals in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago; Kontras enjoyed immediate recognition, winning a four-year chamber music residency with the Western Piedmont Symphony in North Carolina. The Kontras Quartet records for MSR Classics and has released three critically-acclaimed albums. The first, Origins, features the world premiere recording of Dan Visconti's Ramshackle Songs. The recording was commended by Gramophone Magazine for the quartet's "scrupulous shading and control". The Kontras Quartet's recent and upcoming engagements include tours of South Africa and Switzerland; broadcasts on radio stations nationwide; performances at Chicago's Symphony Center and National Gallery of Art; television appearances on NBC and PBS; and sold-out concerts in Telluride, Raleigh and Arizona. In 2018, Kontras and Branford Marsalis gave the world premiere of Dan Visconti's quintet for string quartet and saxophone. Kontras enjoys educational work, and served as the Quartet-in-Residence at Western Michigan University. The quartet has also continued its work in the Chicago Public Schools with the support of a grant from the Boeing Company. Outside of the Chicago area, Kontras has made an impact in North Carolina, bringing over 200 innovative and interactive outreach programs to 40,000 school-age and college students.
We only play music we all love and believe in
We challenge ourselves to find valuable music beyond the standard repertoire, and give it equal respect to the well-established literature
We pair unlikely pieces of music together, framed together by themes that enrich the listening experience
We believe that exploring and explaining the folk music elements of the music we play enhances its relatability to all people, and we have found that the influence of folk music is ubiquitous throughout the string quartet literature
We don't settle for "good enough" - our quality standards are high, and we are constantly working to reach even higher levels of craftsmanship
We connect with our audiences by clearly communicating at performances what the music is about, what makes it special, what makes it relevant to them
We strive to make ourselves, and the music, accessible to all people, not just the well-initiated
We are open to unconventional performance atmospheres, breaking from tradition when it serves a rewarding artistic function
We understand that we are ambassadors; for the music, for the composers, for the classical music community at large
Kontras Quartet: ambassadors of great music, for everyone
Programs for Specific Audience(s) Expertise
We have presented programs to students pre-school age to college, as well as general audiences and groups in retirement home settings. Our broad range of repertoire allows us to tailor programs to specific age groups. We work hard to make sure that our programs for children are appropriately paced, and that we include time for physical engagement during the performance and questions after. All members of the quartet have experience teaching at the college level, and will challenge college music students to approach music in a more global direction. General audiences will appreciate the eclectic energetic mix that we provide.
Traditional Folk/Ethnic Artform Statement
Though we are not a traditional folk ensemble, a large part of our programming explores the connections between folk music and classical music.
6425 Parksleg Ct.
Lisle, IL 60532
Educational Concert in Chicago Area- $1600, Masterclass in Chicago Area- $1600, Short Recital (60mins or less)- $2500, Standard Full Length Recital- $4000, Standard Full Length Recital plus Masterclass- $5000